Archive for the ‘academia’ Category

H/T: Lenin’s Tomb

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(For those needing background information on what’s been happening at Middlesex, please go here.)

A new petition aimed at reversing the shameful decision to close Middlesex’s philosophy department has been composed. The petition, which is authored by Todd May and John Protevi, is a pledge for an academic boycott of Middlesex unless the philosophy department is fully reinstated. Please take a moment to sign the petition, and include some location or institutional affiliation so that an international outcry can be registered.

You can find the petition here.

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It’d be hard to believe if the administration at Middlesex University wasn’t so predictable in their pattern of cowardly bullying. Today, Profs Peter Hallward and Peter Osbourne were suspended along with some students due to activities in the recent occupation at Middlesex. A clear pattern of cowardly deceit and strongarming is emerging from the administration, who initially called a meeting with students to discuss the decision only to cancel at the last minute with no notice. Later, misinformation was given to the media about protesters causing broken bones, and now, in a move that should incite all of us committed to academic freedom, the administration has suspended two Professors from having entering the premises of Middlesex or having contact with other faculty or students without the permission of Ed Esche.

Sadly, Mr. Esche asked for no one’s permission when he set out on a path of neoliberal destruction against his own University. He also did not seek permission from anyone to cancel the meeting that he called.

The assault on education must be resisted.

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Some bad news today about Middlesex University, who announced that they will be shutting down the philosophy department. The department is widely known to most everyone working in Continental philosophy, and is an exemplary place of scholarship–easily one of the top schools in the UK for Continental thought.

Since the handful of people who read this blog are Americans, I’m not sure there is much we can do. Nina Power has a lot more info on the whole thing.

Here is a link to join the Facebook group. Help spread the word as philosophers and friends-of-philosophers stand against this disaster that is creeping to becoming the norm in our Universities.

Update: Due props to Brian Leiter, who has posted about this on his blog, which is of course among the most popular philosophy blogs on the web (it may be the most popular, I’m not sure).

Also, if you are looking to send a letter of protest, you can direct it to Professor Edward Esche, who is the dean of the school of arts and education. His email is e.esche@mdx.ac.uk. For the benefit of those actively working to fight this decision, please copy the following email address when you send a letter to Prof. Esche: savemdxphil@gmail.com.

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I’ve been meaning to sit down and do this for about three weeks. Since it’s the last day of the year, I figure that I might as well get to it now or else I’d find myself stuck with an indefinite procrastinated task. My hope is to briefly recount my reading and thought patterns for the year in the hope that I can clarify some things. I do this primarily for my own benefit. I think that it’s a good task because it can help make plain the transitions that led from one book to another, but also expose the more haphazard adventures in reading. One of my fears is that my curiosity will lend itself to willy-nilly reading of anything and everything, and thus I hope that reflecting on my year of reading might help to curb this habit in the future.

2009 is probably the first full year that I really set out to read with purpose. For the most part, I’ve maintained the practice of taking some notes electronically (as well as in the margins of books, of course). This practice of note-taking was pretty much forced on my by circumstances in Oxford last fall. Previously, I had stuck to taking copious notes in notebooks (transcribing quotes, even), as well as writing entire drafts of essays out by hand. I continued to take notes by hand in Oxford, but time constraints and workload quickly pushed me to compose with OpenOffice. This took some getting used to at first, but the process eventually spilled over into note-taking, which keeps everything neatly ordered and makes transcribing quotes into the body of an essay much easier. I remain slightly ambivalent about the process of electronic-only, if only because I have experienced firsthand the benefits of handwriting essays and then editing them. I hope to integrate the two a little better in the coming year, although I am now partial to typed notes because it’s so much better for organization.

The books that I read in the earliest part of 2009 are a bit hazy for me. After returning to America, I had several books on my mind and several books that I had bought while overseas that I wanted to get to. My recollection of the winter break in late Dec ’09 and early Jan ’09 is that I started several books but didn’t really manage to finish most of them. This is a pretty bad habit and comes a little easily when I’m not disciplined; before I know it, I can make my way about 50 pages into 7 or 8 books. Still, a few books do stand out from that time. First is Barth’s Epistle to the Romans, which I bought on my birthday at Blackwell in Oxford and read most of the way through. I feel like I have a pretty good handle on early Barth and dialectical theology, although this is also due to the help from an additional book that I read some of over that break, George Pattison’s Anxious Angels. This book is about various religious existentialists, including Kierkegaard, Barth, Bultmann, Marcel, Unamuno, Shestov, Dostoevsky, Buber, and Rosenzwieg. The book is nicely divided into chapters one or more individuals, although it isn’t a collection of essays. I used the book for my tutorial in Oxford, and it has remained one of my favorite books to this day.

In the spring semester of ’09, I was taking 18 credits and was pretty busy with getting re-acclimated to the American educational system. My first – and to some extent, lasting – reaction to this was overwhelmingly negative; my biggest gripe was that in survey classes, we just weren’t going as in depth into things as I did for my papers in Oxford. I’ve since come to realize that this is more of a reflection on my current development than the undergraduate education system, and perhaps a sign that it would have been better to do a study abroad during the fall of my senior year (it is also probably worth noting that this is my fifth year of undergrad due to community college).

During the semester, I found myself with a pretty aimless generalized ambition. I wanted to do a massive study of something, and I ended up focusing on my efforts on a research paper for my Pauline Literature class. The paper could be about whatever we wanted so long as it related to Paul, and the topic I chose was the recent reception of by (often atheist) philosophers. If I recall correctly, my “idea” eventually blossomed into dissertation-sized proposal on all of Taubes, Agamben, Badiou, and Zizek, and was constructive to boot in some way that I can’t remember. Somewhere in the archives of An und fur sich this is all contained in a string of comments. Thankfully, Anthony Paul Smith suggested that I focus on the concept of fidelity in Badiou. As a result, I did a pretty close reading of Badiou’s St. Paul: the Foundation of Universalism and I feel like I have a pretty good handle on Badiou. Tangentially, I did a lot of reading in the Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory and some related places/writers. I also read Zizek’s The Puppet and the Dwarf during this time.

The summer of ’09 was a bit botched as well (a recurring them of ’09), because my desire to do some kind of massive reading was still not quelled. I needed to do a project/capstone for my interdisciplinary studies major, and I resolved to do an independent study on (at the time) philosophical hermeneutics. This was planned for the fall of ’09, and heading into the summer, I decided to focus on readings for this independent study and Kierkegaard primary texts. Thus, a lot of my summer was spent reading Gadamer; I read all of the essays in Philosophical Hermeneutics and most of Truth and Method. During the summer, I drove across the country with a good friend who was getting married later on that summer. We drove to LA, where I spent three weeks living with another good friend who I met during my semester abroad and several of his friends from college. It probably goes without saying that I didn’t do much reading on this ‘vacation’ – unless you count craft beer labels – but it was one of the best summers of my life.

I read both The Concept of Anxiety and Sickness Unto Death, the latter of which I would read again in the fall. I spent a lot of the remaining few weeks of the summer watching TV shows online, another vice that continues to this day. In any event, as I headed back to school, my thoughts about the independent study changed a bit and I decided that I wanted to do the death of God and its implications for philosophical hermeneutics. This led to a few weeks of confusion about exactly how I would approach this topic, which eventually changed into anxiety about the whole thing. During this time I was reading a lot of Vattimo, especially On Belief and Beyond Interpretation.

Eventually, at the suggestion of my chaplain, I changed my independent study to be solely on the work of Paul Ricoeur, and for the paper I would focus on Ricoeur’s influences and insights. This topic basically took up all of my free time in the semester, and I spent a lot of most weekends reading a lot of primary and even more secondary sources. I found Ricoeur’s essays to be a good place to get the breadth of his thought, although I read parts of some of the major monographs as well. There are a few that I didn’t get to touch, and this is definitely an area that I will continue to read in. The paper itself turned out to be fine, but that project is really still too vague when you look at it. It’s basically the task of writing an introductory book, and I’m nowhere near qualified to do that.

Finally, late in the semester, I started reading Goodchild’s Theology of Money for the book event at An und fur sich, and this was one of the most exciting reads of the year for me. I’ve posted a lot recently about this book, as well as other reading projects for the break, and I’ll probably have more to say about this in the next few weeks when I review my reading promises to myself before starting the spring. One thing I’ve noticed is that 18 credits is simply too much to really get a lot done in my spare time, and I’ve rectified this in the spring with a 15 credit semester, of which only 6 are for difficult/engaging classes. As a result, I hope to have more time to blog and to blog consistently about books. My traffic has gone up significantly in the month of December, and I hope to keep posting something of worth at least semi-regularly into the new year, as opposed to link posts or youtube videos.

I’m sure there’s more to say, but those are the main stories that stick out in my mind. As I look ahead to 2010, I can already identify some areas in which I plan to read more extensively: Kierkegaard primary works (need to get to Repetition, Philosophical Fragments, and Stages on Life’s Way), Leftist politics/critical theory/twentieth century marxism (willing to take suggestions here), and other works of constructive contemporary philosophy/theology that are akin to Goodchild’s. The first book that I am thinking of is Roland Boer’s Political Myth, but in trying to put together a research proposal for the Kierkegaard library and reading for literary theory, I will probably stick to the first two areas in early 2010.

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